Mike Napoli’s hip condition led to a restructured contract and what he described today as “a pretty tough offseason.” But avascular necrosis (AVN), the condition affecting both of Napoli’s hips, hasn’t diminished his expectations for 2013. The recently-discovered condition has been symptomless, and was caught at an early stage.
“We’re moving in a good direction and I feel like we’ve got that behind us and are ready to go,” Napoli said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
Napoli’s one-year, $5MM contract with the Red Sox includes incentives that can boost the value of the deal to $13MM. The sides readjusted their initial three-year, $39MM agreement after Napoli’s physical revealed that he has AVN.
The 31-year-old said he was initially “shocked” to discover that he had the condition. He played through it in 2012, when he hit 24 home runs, and the Red Sox expect he can be similarly productive this coming season. They’ll rely on Napoli at first base because they want him to stay healthy and they already have ample catching depth.
“There’s no reason Mike Napoli won’t be our primary first baseman in 2013,” Boston general manager Ben Cherington said. “That’s what we’re counting on.”
The Red Sox would be comfortable relying on Napoli as a catcher, Cherington added. That said, the team wanted to add offense at first base given the presence of catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. On offense, Cherington expects Napoli will see pitches, get on base and hit for power — especially given Fenway Park’s dimensions.
Napoli said he expects playing first base will be easier on his body than catching, and that he plans to be ready on Opening Day. After consulting with many doctors he started taking medication for AVN, which has also affected prominent athletes such as Bo Jackson and Brett Favre.
Napoli remained a free agent after the initial deal caused a delay, and other teams inquired about the possibility of signing him. Agent Brian Grieper of Paragon Sports International said he listened to interested teams and outlined different options to Napoli. However, the Red Sox were patient and supportive throughout the process, Grieper said. While Napoli initially sought a multiyear deal, he wanted to play in Boston instead of returning to the Rangers or signing with another club.
“I had a great two years in Texas and enjoyed my time there,” he said. “The best fit for me was in Boston.”
It took a while, but the unexpectedly lengthy process led to a deal that has both sides looking ahead hopefully at the 2013 season.